Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Luck of the Irish

Most of the time, I try not to think about it, to shove it from my mind when I remember or to think about it rationally as a time we somehow, through the grace of God, survived. Other times, I feel a gratitude that we did get through the time of uncertainty and fear, coming out better and stronger. Sometimes, though, something will trigger a memory that will nearly take my breath away, and I remember vividly that period in our lives I try desperately to forget. Twice this past week, I had those moments where I had to catch my breath and remember to be thankful for blessings that came out of that time. Specifically, seeing shamrock decorations for St. Patrick’s Day and a comment Alex made took me back two years ago to when we had to hospitalize him in a locked psychiatric ward for extreme anxiety and aggression.

Two years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, Alex awakened extremely agitated and combative, and we decided to take him to the emergency room, hoping to get some medical intervention after months of unsuccessful attempts to get help for his increasingly erratic and aggressive behavior. After waiting for more than an hour for a psychiatric consult and basically being ignored by the ER staff, we decided to take him home because the waiting was making him even more upset. During this wait, I remember seeing all the shamrocks decorating the ER and thinking that I envied those who were celebrating that holiday when we were struggling to figure out what was wrong with our son and getting no help. The only good thing that came from that ER trip was that a doctor told us that our local mental health facility would not consider admitting Alex because he has autism, which made us realize that we would have to find another facility if he needed in-patient treatment.

Frustrated by our experience, we took him home, where he was reasonably calm the rest of the day. However, in the middle of the night he awakened more upset and agitated than we had ever seen him, and we struggled to subdue him. Knowing this was more than we could handle, we reluctantly called the police to help us restrain him so that I could give him an injection of Ativan to sedate him since he refused to take Ativan by mouth. With the kind assistance of three police officers, Ed and I were able to give him the shot he needed to settle down. Then we knew we had to do something while he was still calm. I began rapidly searching online for nearby hospitals with mental health departments and discovered the nearest one was about a half hour away. I called their 24-hour phone number and asked if they treated patients with autism and was told they did. The woman on the phone told me to bring him to their hospital’s ER, where he could be assessed before he would be admitted to their behavioral medicine department. Grabbing a few things, the three of us along with my parents headed for the hospital, hoping and praying we would find help there. We arrived at the ER, where we found kind and compassionate staff took our concerns seriously, and Alex was admitted that Sunday morning. While we were upset that he needed in-patient treatment, this was the beginning of his healing. [For more details about Alex’s hospitalization, please see my blog entries from March, April, and May of 2012.]

Alex never talks about those weeks of being in the hospital. We don’t mention them, partly for fear of upsetting him, knowing that he was scared about being away from home for the first time in his life, but also because we don’t like remembering that sad time of our lives when we didn’t know what was going to happen. This week, Alex had a minor panic attack where he became slightly agitated—a far cry from those days were he became terrified and aggressive—but was able to calm himself quickly. When I asked him why he was upset, he told me, “Don’t remember things in 2012.” This inability to remember something two years ago bothered him because his memory is quite keen. Trying to reassure him, I reminded him of some of the good things that happened that year, and he was able to remember those, which made him feel better. Since he was heavily sedated during and following his hospitalization, he probably doesn’t remember a lot of that time, and he may, like me, try to block out the bad memories so that he doesn’t have to remember them. Whatever the reason, I hate that he had to go through that, and I hate that Ed and I had to go through that as his parents.

While remembering those times is hard, we’re beginning to gain perspective on what good came out of those bad experiences. Certainly, we appreciate even more the improvements Alex has made since then, knowing how far he has come. We also know that the struggles we faced strengthened our faith as we trusted God to lead us, and He did. Before the hospitalization, we could not find professionals to help us, and now we have a fantastic team. Our family doctor, psychiatric nurse practitioner, pharmacists, behavioral therapist, music therapist, and case worker--all of whom genuinely care about us--see the good in Alex and work together with Ed and me to help Alex reach his potential, and they celebrate his accomplishments along the way. Moreover, we also now have financial assistance given for Alex’s disability to help us pay for services we had to pay ourselves for many years. Even though the memories of Alex’s hospitalization and the months that led up to it are painful, we know that time was part of the plan to help him move forward. Maybe the annual appearance of shamrocks that remind me of that time are actually meant to remind us that we, indeed, do have the luck of the Irish because things have changed so much for the better. While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know who holds our future, and we are thankful that God, who saw us through our darkest moments, will see us through every day with His grace and peace. In the words of an Irish blessing: “May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door, and happiness be with you now and bless you evermore!”

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Just as I have brought all these calamities on them, so I will do all the good I have promised them.’” Jeremiah 32:42


marjorie said...

I'm so glad things are better! May joy and peace surround you, indeed. xoxo

K. C. Wells said...

Hard work, determination, faith, and love, my friend. ❤️

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks so much, Marjorie and K.C., for your kind comments, loving support, and dear friendship--you are blessings in my life!